After months of haggling, the Assembly finally has gotten to the final stages in moving "Race to the Top" education legislation.
The Democrats took out two parts that were controversial for some members, and placed them in a separate bill, SB X5 4: 1. allowing students in low-performing schools to "open enroll" in higher performing schools; and, 2. allowing parents to petition to require school boards to implement an aggressive turnaround strategy for a failing school. Both are essential to put real pressure on underperforming schools and give students real options for a better education.
In the Assembly Education Committee, this separate bill passed 11-4 with Assembly members Julia Brownley, D-Woodland Hills; Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco; Wesley Chesbro, D-Santa Rosa; and Tom Torlakson, D-Martinez, voting no. Joan Buchanan, D-San Ramon, abstained, continuing a disturbing pattern of abdication of her duty as a legislator. Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, didn't vote.
The main bill, SB X5 1, on turning around the lowest performing schools; using data to evaluate teachers and principals; and linking preschool to K-12 to college to work force data passed 11-2. Ammiano and Torlakson voted no. Buchanan and Jeff Miller, D-Mission Viejo, abstained. Chesbro and Dan Logue, D-Chico, didn't vote.
Significantly, Speaker-elect John Perez voted yes on both bills.
The bills are being heard right now in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Then it's on to Assembly floor.
Wednesday is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's State of the State address at 10 a.m.
Assuming the Assembly passes the bills today, the Senate Education Committee will meet at 9 a.m. to deal with them. Then the Senate Appropriations Committee will meet. Then the bills go to the Senate floor. Can all this happen before the governor's 10 a.m. speech? Senators are supposed to meet at 9:45 a.m. in the Senate Chamber to proceed over to the Assembly for the 10 a.m. speech, so we'll see. It would be a nice gift to get this done.
It has been a long haul on this since July.